In a competition that went right down to the wire, Team France topped the podium at the sixth leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup 2015 series in Bratislava, Slovakia today. But Finland finished a very close second, just a single fault behind, to claim the maximum qualifying points on offer, and has moved to the top of the Europe Division 2 leaderboard with just two legs of this series remaining.
Belgium lined up third ahead of Turkey in fourth, Poland in fifth, Portugal in sixth and the host nation of Slovakia in seventh place. Just eight of the 13 participating teams returned for the second round, and Brazil made the cut to finish in eighth place.
It was no easy day at the office as the Chef d’Equipe of the winning team confirmed. “The course was difficult, but the course designer did a good job and I’m not just saying that because we won! It was technical and not so easy, it asked the riders to give their full attention and to ride properly”, Philippe Guerdat explained. The French have long been one of the dominant forces in Division 1, but like so many other nations they find the experience to be gained in Division 2 is invaluable for up-and-coming horse-and-rider combinations. And the French team manager could feel rightly proud when his side’s pathfinder, 24-year-old Geoffroy de Coligny, produced the only double-clear of the competition with Qaid Louviere (Mr Blue x Papillon Rouge).
The French were already well out in front at the end of the first round when only a single error from Bernard Briand Chevalier and Qadillace du Heup (Helios de la Cour II x Thurin HN) had to be counted after clears from both de Coligny and Marc Le Berre with Rubis du Rustick (Dollar du Murier hts de Seine x Hand In Glove). Anchorman, Francois Xavier Boudant, returned a 12-fault scoreline with Stella Lyght (Kannan x Gun du Mesnil Dan) for the discard this time out, but the pair would show that wasn’t their true form when riding to the rescue later in the day.
Belgium was lying second on 11 faults at the halfway stage ahead of Finland in third with 12 on the board closely followed by Portugal and Turkey with 13 apiece. Slovakia and Brazil made the cut with 16 faults each, as did Poland with 17. However only the top eight nations were eligible for round two, so USA, Czech Republic and Hungary were confined to the sidelines along with the three-member sides from Russia and Greece.
The first round had been packed full of excitement, and the second had plenty more in store. Rudiger Wassibauer’s Polish side made a rapid improvement when adding only six faults to their scoreline, while the Slovakians did well to add just 12 to their tally. Pathfinder, Igor Sulek, had to retire with a broken stirrup in the first round and picked up 15 next time out but second-line rider, Radovan Sillo, produced one of just nine second-round clears. The Turks meanwhile looked like they might apply pressure on the leaders if their last-line partnership of Derin Demirsoy and Colino (Cassini I x Athlet Z) could leave all the poles in place. But the pair, who had put in a foot-perfect first effort, got into a major muddle at the double at fence five and the 21-year-old rider ended up on the ground for elimination. However when the Portuguese were forced to add 12, they dropped behind Turkey who added only eight.
The top three countries really slogged it out in the closing stages, clears from pathfinder Satu Liukkonen and anchorman Henri Kovacs leaving Finland with just the single time penalty collected by Sebastian Numminen to be added when Mikko Maentausta’s 12 faults was the drop score.
That moved them right up behind the French, because the Belgians had to add eight despite a clear this time out from Fabienne Daigneux Lange who was double-jobbing as Chef d’Equipe and team member.
All the pressure was on the final Frenchman, Boudant, last to go in the entire competition. The second clear from de Coligny had been followed by eight-fault results from both Le Berre and Chevalier. At least one of those would have to be counted, and if Boudant had a pole down then all would be lost, while a single time fault would lead his country into a jump-off against Finland. Cool as a breeze however, the 36-year-old rider got it absolutely right this time out, bringing a big smile to his Chef d’Equipe’s face.
“He was not so good in the first round and yet he is the rider with most experience but this is a horse that might do the Super League next year and I knew Francois would not be nervous even though he was under pressure. The first round he rode was not normal (for this horse-and-rider combination), the second round was what I was expecting, it was very good”, said Philippe Guerdat afterwards.
This was only the fourth Nations Cup of his career for the star of the day, de Coligny who runs a yard of 30 horses from his home in Deauville and who picked up just a single time fault when part of the third-placed team at the Europe Division 2 leg staged in Lisbon, Portugal in May.
“Last year I came here to Bratislava but I didn’t go in the second round because France didn’t qualify. I had four faults and the other team members didn’t have a good performance. But I’m very happy today, my horse jumped really well and it was a great result for the French team. I’m very happy for our Chef d’Equipe!”, de Coligny said.
Source: Press release from the FEI written by Louise Parkes
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